Dr. Ching-Chang Chen of Ryukoku University presented “International Relations from the Margins: Okinawa-Taiwan Relations Revisited” at the Vessel Campana Hotel in American Village, Okinawa on June 9th, 2023. This marks the third seminar in Okinawa as part of the YCAPS-SPF Community Conversations series. Dr. Chen was joined by around 20 community members for a discussion that turned our usual great power narratives on its head. Dr. Chen initially laid out usual great powers centered Westphalian paradigms that have historically dominated International Relations studies before presenting his work examining competing state-centered narratives by China and Japan contesting claims over Ryuku/Okinawa and Taiwan since the late nineteenth century.
Dr. Chen examined several historical examples to illustrate his concepts including a particularly interesting dilemma surrounding an 1871 incident involving Ryukuan survivors of a shipwreck that were killed by native tribes in Taiwan and the subsequent discussion in which Japanese diplomats were able to get the Zongli yaman ministers recognition that these “savages” and their land in Taiwan was beyond China’s influence. This then led to the 1874 Botansya/Mudanshe incident in which Japan conducted a campaign against the southern Taiwanese native tribes with Qing officials accepting that it was a “just act” to redress the killing of “Japanese citizens” These of course, are concessions and narratives that China of today would think of as unimaginable! This was just one of several examples that Dr. Chen dissected both with a traditional westphalian view as well as the lens of his own research and work. It was an illuminating discussion and a great opportunity for all in attendance to think outside of the box and look at some of today’s regional issues with fresh eyes.